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"CA-125" Cancer Screening Test Is The Best Way To Detect
Summary eRumor: This is the
first-hand account of a woman who says she was eventually diagnosed
with ovarian cancer, but laments that she wasn't given a
"CA-125" medical test earlier than when she got it.
She urges women to get the test annually and equates it with a
common screening test in men for prostate cancer.
The Truth: Anyone who has had treatment for ovarian
cancer knows what an important role the CA-125 test can play, but
has reviewed numerous professional documents regarding the CA-125
test and has not found a single one that recommends it alone as the
primary screening tool for ovarian cancer.
CA-125 is a substance found in the blood of some women with ovarian
cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, however, a
CA-125 test is not a reliable tool for finding ovarian cancer
because of its poor accuracy. There is a large number of
false negatives because some ovarian cancers do not raise CA-125
levels and some false positives because other conditions can
sometimes raise CA-125 levels.
Partly in response to the email eRumor, a statement was issued by a
medical panel at a conference of the National Institutes of Health
in April of 1994 that said the CA-125 test "...alone is not an
adequate screening test."
The Louis Busch Hagar Cancer Center of Bassett Healthcare in
Cooperstown, New York, says that more than 50 percent of the women
with ovarian cancer will not show results on a CA-125 test and a statement
by the center calls the test a "disappointment."
It is regarded as a valuable tool, however, when sometimes combined
with other tests or in targeted groups of women, such as those who
have already gone through menopause. Also, a study in
the February 16, 1999 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine and
cited by the American Cancer Society found that the CA-125 test was
a valuable in tracking the progress of one of the most common forms
of ovarian cancer, but that was after the cancer had already been
found and was being treated. The same article says the CA-125
test does not meet the standards of a screening test.
According to the
American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common
cancer and fifth most common cause of cancer death among women and
accounts for four percent of all cancers in women and causes more
deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system.
There is no question that early detection should be every woman's
goal and that she should work with her physician to that end.
A real example of the story as it has
This is Kathyís Story, in her own words:
As some of you know, I have Primary Peritoneal Cancer. This cancer has only recently been identified as its OWN type of cancer; but it is, essentially, Ovarian Cancer. Both types of cancer are diagnosed in the same way (with the "tumor marker" CA-125 blood test), and they are treated in the same way (surgery to remove the primary tumor and then chemotherapy with Taxol and Carboplatin).
Having gone through this ordeal, I want to save others from the same fate. That is why I am sending this message to you and hope you will print it and give it or send it via e-mail to everybody you know.
One thing I have learned is that each of us must take TOTAL responsibility for our own healthcare. I thought I had done that because I always had an annual physical, had my annual mammogram and PAP smear, did monthly Self Breast Exam, went to the dentist at least twice a year, etc. I even insisted on a sigmoidoscopy and a bone density test last year. When I had a total hysterectomy in 1993, I thought that I did not have to worry about getting any of the female reproductive organ cancers. LITTLE DID I KNOW!
I donít have ovaries (and they were HEALTHY when they were removed!), but I have what is essentially ovarian cancer.
Strange, isnít it? These are just SOME of the things our Doctors never tell us. ONE out of every 55 women will get OVARIAN or PRIMARY PERITONEAL CANCER! The "CLASSIC" symptoms are an ABDOMEN that rather SUDDENLY ENLARGES and CONSTIPATION and/or DIARRHEA. I had these classic symptoms and went to the Doctor. Because these symptoms seemed to be "abdominal," I went to a gastroenterologist. He ran tests that were designed to determine whether there was a bacteria infection; these tests were negative, and I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome." I guess I would have accepted this diagnosis had it not been for my enlarged abdomen. I swear to you, it looked like I was 4-5 months pregnant! I, therefore, insisted on more tests.
They took an X-Ray of my abdomen; it was negative. I was again assured that I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and was encouraged to go on my scheduled month-long trip to Europe. I couldnít wear any of my slacks or shorts because I couldnít get them buttoned, and I KNEW something was radically wrong. I INSISTED on more tests, and they (reluctantly) scheduled me for a CT-Scan (just to shut me up, I think). This is what I mean by taking charge of our own health care. The CT-Scan showed a lot of fluid in my abdomen (NOT normal!). Needless to say, I had to cancel my trip and have FIVE POUNDS of fluid drawn off at the hospital (not a pleasant procedure, I assure you, but NOTHING compared to what was ahead of me). Tests revealed cancer cells in the fluid.
Finally, finally, finally, the Doctor ran a CA-125 blood test and I was properly diagnosed. I HAD THE CLASSIC SYMPTOMS FOR OVARIAN CANCER, AND YET THIS SIMPLE CA-125 BLOOD TEST HAD NEVER BEEN RUN ON ME...NOT AS PART OF MY ANNUAL PHYSICAL EXAM AND NOT WHEN I WAS SYMPTOMATIC. THIS IS AN INEXPENSIVE AND SIMPLE BLOOD TEST!!! PLEASE, PLEASE, P-L-E-A-S-E TELL ALL YOUR FEMALE FRIENDS AND RELATIVES TO INSIST ON A CA-125 BLOOD TEST EVERY YEAR AS PART OF THEIR ANNUAL PHYSICAL EXAMS. BE FOREWARNED THAT THEIR DOCTORS MIGHT TRY TO TALK THEM OUT OF IT, SAYING "IT ISNíT NECESSARY." BELIEVE ME, HAD I KNOWN THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW, WE WOULD HAVE CAUGHT MY CANCER MUCH EARLIER (BEFORE IT WAS A STAGE 3 CANCER)! INSIST ON THE CA-125 BLOOD TEST; DONíT TAKE "NO" FOR AN ANSWER. THE NORMAL RANGE FOR A CA-125 BLOOD TEST IS BETWEEN ZERO AND 35. MINE WAS 754.(THATíS RIGHT, 754!)
IF THE NUMBER IS ONLY SLIGHTLY ABOVE, YOU CAN HAVE ANOTHER ONE DONE IN THREE OR SIX MONTHS AND KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON IT JUST LIKE WOMEN DO WHEN THEY HAVE FIBROID TUMORS OR WHEN MEN HAVE A
SLIGHTLY ELEVATED PSA TEST (PROSTATE SPECIFIC ANTIGENS) THAT HELPS DIAGNOSE PROSTATE CANCER. HAVING THE CA-125 TEST DONE ANNUALLY CAN ALERT YOU EARLY, AND THATíS THE GOAL IN DIAGNOSING ANY TYPE OF CANCER - CATCH IT EARLY. I hope I havenít bored you with all of this. But I hope I HAVE scared you enough to motivate you to action.
Do YOU know 55 women? If so, at least one of them will have this VERY AGGRESSIVE
cancer and maybe, just maybe, it will be YOU. I hope not.
Please, go to your Doctor THIS WEEK and insist on a CA-125 test and have one EVERY YEAR for the rest of your life. And forward this message to every woman you know and tell all of your Female family members and friends. As the Nike ads say, JUST DO IT!" Please donít think youth will protect you, either. Though the median age for this cancer is 56 (and, guess what, Iím exactly 56), women as young as 22 have it. Age is not a factor.
I have a co-worker whose mother did not survive this cancer. She repeatedly requested a CA-125 blood test when her troubles first started. But, like the lady in this e-mail, her Dr. refused, saying that it was something else besides her ovaries. Donít look at this as a morbid subject. Consider this as a wake-up call for our health.
If Susan G. Komenís sister had not been so persistent, we would not have mammograms. Well, after these two incidences, I made some calls. I found that the CA-125 test is an ovarian screening test equivalent to a manís PSA test For prostate screening (which Ronís, MD, gives him in his physical each year and insurance pays for). I called my general practitionerís office about having the test done. The nurse had never heard of it. She told me that she doubted that insurance would pay for it. So, I called Prudential Ins. Co., and got the same response: Never heard of it-it wonít be covered. I explained that it was the same as the PSA test that they had paid for my husband for years. After conferring with whomever they confer with, she told me that the CA-125 test would be covered. So I am having this blood test this Friday.
For those of you that still have these parts, go have the test taken. It Is $75 in a GPís office and $125 at the OB-GYNís. This a screening test that should be required just like a pap smear (a pap smear cannot detect problems with your ovaries). And you must insist that your insurance company pay for it. Like the lady said, we must take care of our own health. Who knows your body better than you? This is what Gilda Radner had (Saturday Night Live, remember? ). Gene Wilder and Pierce Brosnan (his first wife died from it, too) are lobbying for womenís health issues, saying that this test should be required in our physicals, just like the pap and the mammogram. Pass this information along to every woman you know.!!
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